What Does a Smoking Tailpipe Mean?

Most of the time, the emissions from your car’s tailpipe are going to be invisible. It can therefore be worrisome when you start to see a cloud of smoke start billowing out the back of your car. When this happens, do you know what to do? Is it a problem that will resolve itself, or is it something to take to our auto body shop in Seattle? The answer depends on the color of the emissions you see.

  • Thin and White: If your tailpipe is producing a white vapor that dissipates quickly in the air, it’s probably nothing but water. This points at condensation in your tailpipe, which is common and no cause for concern.
  • Thick and White: When your tailpipe is emitting billowing white smoke, your car is probably burning off engine coolant. This is a problem that requires immediate attention if you want to avoid overheating and inflicting serious damage to your engine. Turn off your car immediately and call a tow truck.
  • Blue or Gray: When you see thick blue or gray smoke, your car is most likely burning oil in its combustion chamber. Your oil levels should start to drop more quickly, which can lead to more serious problems down the line. Take your car to a mechanic as soon as you can manage.
  • Black: When your tailpipe is shooting out black smoke and soot, it’s probably burning too much fuel. If this happens on a cold day, give your car a chance to warm up. If the smoke disappears, it’s probably nothing to worry about. Otherwise, you’ll want to have a mechanic look at your engine.